WASHINGTON– The Air Force has disciplined 15 senior officers, including six generals, in connection with the errant shipping of nuclear missile nose cones to Taiwan in 2006, officials announced today. Video
The service took administrative actions against two lieutenant generals, two major generals, two brigadier generals and nine colonels, Acting Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley said. He and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz made the announcements at a Pentagon news conference.
In March 2008, the Air Force revealed that the U.S. military had regained control of four nuclear nose cone assemblies, which did not contain nuclear material, for a Minuteman missile mistakenly sent to Taiwan in 2006. After a review of the error, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates asked for the resignations of then-Air Force Secretary Michael W. Wynne and then-Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley.
“It has been an Air Force priority that airmen at all levels hold themselves to the highest standards of performance and that all airmen, therefore, remain accountable for their areas of responsibilities and the successful execution of their assigned missions,” Donley said.
The acting secretary said no mission in the Air Force is more important than the service’s central role in maintaining America’s nuclear deterrent. The punishments he and Schwartz made grew out of recommendations from a report submitted by Navy Adm. Kirkwood Donald, the chief of the Navy’s office of nuclear propulsion.
“These actions are administrative in nature but can carry with them substantial consequences for the careers of these officers, including their potential to command, to be promoted or to retire in their current grade,” Donley said. “We recognize the years of dedicated service that these officers have given, but we cannot ignore the breaches of trust that have occurred on their watch.”
Schwartz echoed the acting secretary in his comments about accountability. “The standards to which we must adhere are high, and that is for very good reason,” the chief of staff said. “We are entrusted with the defense of the nation. In no area is that imperative greater than in the stewardship of our nation’s nuclear enterprise. The very nature of the mission demands adherence to the highest standards of precision and reliability.
“Today we are taking action in response to a breakdown in adherence to those standards,” he continued. “These officers are good people with otherwise distinguished careers spent in faithful service to the nation. They are not accused of intentional wrongdoing, but they did not do enough to carry out their leadership responsibilities for nuclear oversight. For that, they must be held accountable.”
The officers involved received letters of reprimand, admonishment or counseling. The most serious is a letter of reprimand.
Lt. Gen. Kevin J. Sullivan received a letter of reprimand for not adequately addressing logistics policy deficiencies and for failing to correct previously identified systemic issues in Intercontinental Ballistic Missile, or ICBM, logistics. He also was cited for not exercising effective command oversight to recognize and correct deficiencies in ICBM depot maintenance and materiel control at the Ogden Air Logistics Center, Utah. Sullivan has requested retirement.
Lt. Gen. Michael A. Hamel received a letter of admonishment for not effectively exercising responsibility for ICBM system sustainment matters and for not effectively correcting deficiencies in engineering support of ICBM components while serving as commander of the Space and Missile Systems Center and Air Force Program Executive Officer for Space. Hamel had previously requested retirement.
Maj. Gen. Roger W. Burg received a letter of admonishment for not exercising effective command oversight of ICBM sustainment-related activities. He also did not identify and correct deficiencies in shipping and receiving sensitive components at ICBM bases in his current position as commander of 20th Air Force. Donley and Schwartz have determined that Burg is needed to restore effective stewardship of the ICBM force, and he will remain in command to continue corrective actions he has initiated.
Maj. Gen. Kathleen D. Close received a letter of admonishment for not exercising effective command oversight of depot maintenance, engineering activities and materiel control of sensitive components. She was cited for not recognizing weaknesses in the sensitive component supply chain, and for not correcting materiel control and maintenance deficiencies at Ogden Air Logistics Center. Donley and Schwartz determined that Close is needed to restore Air Force stewardship of the ICBM force, and she will remain in command to continue corrective actions she has initiated.
Brig. Gen. Francis M. Bruno was admonished for not exercising proper oversight to identify and correct weaknesses in logistics management and maintenance support for ICBM components, and for not taking adequate action to correct previously identified deficiencies at air logistics centers in his position as logistics director for Air Force Materiel Command. Bruno previously requested retirement.
Brig. Gen. Arthur B. Cameron III was admonished for not identifying and correcting deficiencies in depot maintenance operations involving sensitive components, for not ensuring proper materiel control of sensitive components when in the custody of maintenance personnel and for not taking adequate action to correct previously identified discrepancies in materiel control and maintenance while he served as a maintenance wing commander.
Five of the colonels received letters of reprimand, three letters of admonishment and one a letter of counseling.
“All who serve in uniform understand our obligation to the mission, to personal accountability and to order and discipline in our organizations,” Schwartz said. “We will sustain our high standards, because the nature of our work depends on it. And our client, the American people, expect it.”